Auburn, Ala.--Jeremy Johnson’s collegiate football debut couldn’t have gone much better and on Monday the Southeastern Conference recognized the Auburn quarterback’s play by naming him SEC Freshman of the Week.
Starting in place of injured junior Nick Marshall, Johnson led the Tigers to a 62-3 Homecoming victory over Western Carolina.
The six-foot-six quarterback completed 17-21 passes for 201 yards with touchdowns to Jay Prosch, Ricardo Louis, Tony Stevens and Quan Bray. The four touchdown passes are the second most in Auburn history by a quarterback making his first start.
Additionally, he ran the football three times for 26 yards before retiring for the day following Auburn’s first possession of the third quarter when the Tigers increased their lead to 49-3.
The Tigers finished the game with a school-record 714 yards of total offense, the ninth highest total by an SEC team.
Commenting on why the Tigers were so successful moving the football, Johnson said, “Really, it was the play calling by the coaches and us executing and making the plays. We knew we were going to have to complete some passes because they were in one-on-one coverage. We had prepared for that all week and that’s what we did.”
Johnson, who had been hoping for an opportunity to play this season, said he enjoyed the chance to get on the field as his Tigers improved their record to 5-1.
“It was fun,” the freshman said. “It was Homecoming and I’m sure the fans enjoyed it. That’s what it’s all about.”
Johnson came close to scoring a touchdown on the ground, but stepped out at the three-yard line on a16-yard run on a zone read play. He had other opportunities to run, but chose to give the football to the running backs.
“On zone reads I could have pulled the ball out a couple of times, but I was undecided,” he pointed out. “They (coaches) told me if I’m undecided to hand the ball off. That’s what I did and we ran for a lot of yards.”
Auburn’s 511 rushing yardage total are the third most in a single game for an AU team.
Johnson said he appreciated the support and confidence of his teammates as he played in his first college game, including the support of Marshall, the player who he was competing with for the starting spot during the preseason practices.
“My attitude had to stay positive,” Johnson said. “I wanted the job, but we had to do what was best for the team. That’s why they put Nick out there. I cheer him on in every game and he cheered me on this game. We have a good connection and cheer each other up.
“I’m just doing my role, whatever I can do for the team,” Johnson said. “I’m not competing for the job because Nick is the starter. I’m just trying to be ready when needed.”
Johnson and Ricardo Louis celebrate after the two connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass.
Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Rhett Lashlee gave the freshman’s debut a thumbs up and noted he was “proud” of Johnson. “I thought he did well,” Lashlee said. “He didn't seem too anxious or nervous before the game. I'm sure he had the normal butterflies anybody had for their first start.
“He was calm and I thought the guys rallied around him and really helped him and showed a lot of confidence in him,” Lashlee added.
“He made good decisions,” the coach said. “The one interception, to be honest with you, was my fault. The corner is deep. He has got to not throw that ball and tuck it and run, but he didn’t have a lot of other options on that deep ball. You would like him to throw that away or pull it down and run, but other than that I thought he made good decisions.
“I thought he was pretty accurate with the football. There were one or two a little behind the guy, but for the most part you could tell he has been getting the reps. The little things like your drop depth or carrying out a fake all the way--and that makes sense in your first game because there's a lot going on in your head. Those are some things that can be fixed, but big picture he graded out well with his decision making and obviously we were able to get the ball in the end zone, which is the most important thing.”
Last week Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson was honored as the SEC Freshman of the Week.
Marshall is expected to return to the starting lineup this week as the Tigers travel to play seventh-ranked Texas A&M on Saturday at College Station. Texas A&M's quarterback, Johnny Manziel, was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Aggies to a 41-38 victory over Ole Miss.
Kickoff time for Auburn's first-ever game at Texas A&M is 2:30 p.m. CDT.
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